Last Updated: Jan 10th, 2011 - 11:11:15
| Children: How They Grow, Elementary School Children Ages 9 to 12
By Karen B. DeBord
May 3, 2008, 11:48 PST
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How They Grow, Elementary School Children Ages 9 to 12
Karen B. DeBord
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia
Children in the age group
9 to 12 years (middle school-aged) are becoming "preadolescents." In addition
to the changes going on physically, mentally and socially they are also beginning
to develop serious ideas about their plans for careers.
If children are confident and feel positive about themselves toward the end
of this period, they are better prepared to move on to take more risks and gain
a better understanding of themselves in adolescence.
- Growth in weight and
height continues at a steady rate. Some children experience a growth spurt
and enter early adolescence.
- Children begin to experience
body changes (hips widen, breasts bud, pubic hair appears and testes develop)
that indicate approaching puberty.
- The range of height and
weight widens. Boys weigh from about 60 pounds to 100 pounds; girls weigh
55 pounds to 100 pounds. Height for boys and girls varies from 50 inches to
- Small muscles develop
rapidly during this period. This development makes activities that require
the use of those muscles, such as hammering or playing musical instruments,
- Children in this age
group are as coordinated as adults, although lapses of awkwardness are common.
- Eyes reach maturity in
both size and function. The added strain of school work (smaller print, computers,
intense writing) often creates eye-tension, and leads some children to eye
examinations. Regular eye check-ups are an important part of annual physicals.
- Energy abounds and children
this age may become over-stimulated when participating in competitive, physical
activities. (Children this age need 10 hours to 11 hours of sleep.)
- Regular dental check-ups
are important during these years as permanent teeth shift position.
- Children in middle childhood
can enjoy reading alone, can think abstractly and can plan ahead for several
- They can evaluate behavior
- Their attention span
and ability to concentrate increases to several hours.
- This age group needs
to feel independent and free to express themselves.
- These children have a
need to know and understand "why."
- They develop a sense
of morals based on what they have learned from adults.
- Importance of the peer
group increases. Children this age become interested in joining gangs, clubs
or secret societies.
- Beginning to try on various
identities to discover who they want to associate with.
- Independence from adults
- "World view" expands
from home to neighborhood and local community.
- Sibling rivalry is common.
- Children in this age
group want to discuss sex often to correct information from peers.
- They develop a concept
of "fair" or "unfair" related to actions of others.
- They enjoy both cooperation
and limited competition. Cooperation is more difficult to learn.
- Signs of growing independence
and testy disobedience perhaps even backtalk and rebellious behavior
- Children who seem withdrawn,
depressed or cruel may be having a problem with their emotional development.
- Common fears include
the unknown, failure, death, family problems and non-acceptance.
- Their concept of right
and wrong continues to develop.
- Their sense of humor
further develops during this period.
- Every time children succeed
at something, their view of themselves improves.
- When adults set up inappropriate
competitions, children in this age group can suffer serious emotional disturbances.
- These children are ready
to face consequences if their mistakes are not too serious.
- They have a strong attachment
to their own sex and show antagonism toward the opposite sex.
- Occupational preferences
are based on personal abilities and capacities as well as interests and exposure
to various settings.
- Children this age think
about possible occupations when selecting junior high courses.
- Self-image as "worker"
begins to emerge.
- Many children want to
begin a part-time job or find a way to earn money as an allowance.
Reflecting on your 9- to
Listed below are typical behaviors
of children 9 through 12 years old. The list is by no means complete, and it is
likely that many children will exhibit characteristics of several ages.
For instance, Mike may be chronologically age 10, but he might behave younger
than 10 in some ways and older than 10 in some ways.
Study the list of characteristics shown for your child's age, and check off
behaviors now displayed.
Look forward and backward to see what characteristics of older and younger
children your child exhibits. Do you see your whole child better?
- Gaining self-confidence
- Less quarreling
- Perfecting motor skills
- Becoming more inner-directed
- Likes organized play
with definite rules
- Bursts of emotion and
- Accepts failures and
mistakes more realistically
- Tries to give impression
of being calm and steadfast
- Becomes selective in
activities and spends more time focused on an activity
- Girls may start puberty
spurt of growth
- Loves to form clubs and
be an officer
- Sense of humor is well
- May begin to show signs
of neglecting personal hygiene while interest in clothing styles and fads
begins to be important
- Likes and enjoys friends
- Beginning to agree logically
- Individual interest more
- Motor skills fairly well
- Enjoys ability to "fit
in" at home, school and play
- Relation with parents,
siblings, teachers and friends at all-time high
- Enjoys organized activities
and has secret groups, codes, etc.
- Can show concern and
is sensitive to others
- Begins development of
special motor skills (sports, music, dancing, crafts)
- Feels more comfortable
when their world is organized and schedules are kept
- Loves trivia
- Enjoys taking and planning
- May resent being told
what to do, yet needs constant reminders regarding routine responsibilities
- Appetite increases
- At times can be loud,
boorish and rude
- Tends to be moody, sensitive
- With strangers may be
cooperative, friendly, lively and pleasant
- Frequent arguments with
- Friends are selected
because of mutual interests
- Interest in the opposite
sex is changing
- Attitudes about school
- Very active
- May read without being
able to explain the story sequence, or the consequences of actions
From a guide originally
written by Mary McPhail Gray and Terrie Foltz.
- Enthusiastic for short
- Emotions are extreme;
either really likes something or really hates it
- No longer wants to be
considered a child
- Emphasis on "best" friend
- Can be critical of physical
appearance (especially girls)
- Some restlessness, day
dreaming and wasting time
- Has some difficulty accepting
- Participates less in
- Talks frequently of the
1999 University of Missouri. Published by University
Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia. Please use our feedback
form for questions or comments about this or any other publication contained
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Issued in furtherance
of Cooperative Extension Work Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation
with the United States Department of Agriculture. Ronald J. Turner, Director,
Cooperative Extension Service, University of Missouri and Lincoln University,
Columbia, Missouri 65211. University Extension does not discriminate
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or status as a Vietnam era veteran in employment or programs. If you have special
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